Communication Strategy for the Gospel
This bible study examines Paul’s communication strategy for the gospel. He tailored the message delivery for each audience while keeping the message consistent. The strategy is applicable in several areas of present-day human interaction. We examine several examples from Paul. He delivered a consistent message of the gospel in his ministry but tailored the messaging strategy for his audience. As he explained in his letter to the Corinthians [1 Corinthians 9:19–23], he identified with and blended into the audience as appropriate in order to tailor the messaging to reach as many as he could. He translated and arranged the message to a form that the audience was conditioned to receive while maintaining the content. We illustrate his tailored approach using four examples of his messaging during the First and Second Missionary Journeys.
Tailoring message delivery strategy for each audience while keeping the content the same enables one to focus the message to the audience. A technical professional, for example, often needs to deliver the same information to an audience of policy makers or other professionals interested in implementing the information or evaluating its adequacy. The information delivered in each case has to remain consistent but the delivery strategy, such as level of detail or distribution of emphasis, will be different for each audience.
Paul’s Messaging Strategy
Paul’s message that he delivered through his ministry is as follows: Jesus is the Savior (or Messiah) that God promised to send to the world (Jews and Gentiles) as recorded by the prophets. His life, death, and resurrection after death happened exactly as prophesied and offer salvation (redemption from sins) to those that believe in him. He delivered the same message each time but the delivery strategy differed, depending on his target audience.
Sermon at a Synagogue in Pisidian Antioch
His message at a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch [Acts 13:16–41], during the First Missionary Journey, was delivered as a narrative anchored on God’s promise to Abraham of a Messiah through a future generation of his offspring and fulfillment of the promise in the birth of Jesus to a descendant of David. He described rejection or misunderstanding of Jesus by the Jews, which resulted in a conspiracy to crucify him; his resurrection from the dead, which distinguishes him from every human and fulfilled prophesies about him; and the fact that every person can accept God’s offer of redemption from sin by accepting him as Savior. The message covers all elements of the gospel and was delivered in a way appropriate for a sermon in a church or synagogue.
Message to a Jailer in Philippi
In this incident, Paul delivered a brief and focused message to a person that had already decided to receive the gospel. As we discussed in a previous bible study at THIS_LINK, the jailer was touched spiritually because Paul and Silas had compassion on him and persuaded him to call off a suicide attempt. He was about to take his own life because he thought the prisoners had escaped. Paul told him not to harm himself because “we are all here” [Acts 16:25–28]. In response to his question about what he needed to do to be saved, Paul delivered a message of the gospel to him. The message was brief and concise because the recipient had already decided to turn to God.
Discussion Groups in Greece
Paul delivered gospel messages through discussion groups in various cities in Greece during the Second Missionary Journey. At Thessalonica, he participated in Scripture study sessions in the synagogue, during which he led a rigorous examination of the Scriptures to prove that Jesus is the Messiah and the scriptures predicted his suffering, death, and resurrection [Acts 17:1–4]. He also participated in discussion circles in Athens, held at the synagogue or marketplace and consisted of free and open discussion of the Scriptures in relation to Paul’s message. His message about Jesus and the resurrection aroused interest and resulted in his being invited to address the Areopagus, where philosophers met to discuss new ideas [Acts 17:16–21].
Presentation at the Areopagus
At the Areopagus, Paul presented a message at the intellectual level of a professional philosophical meeting while covering the gospel about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. He acknowledged the high regard for religion in Athens and noted that what they referred to as “unknown god” is God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. He created all people from one man, assigned them their places in time and space, set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed, whose status as God he proved to everyone by raising him from the dead. The message was well received. At least two people converted to Christ as a result [Acts 17:22–34].
Why Tailored Messaging Strategy?
Communication strategies are important tools in spreading the gospel. Some people may ask why so? After all, we were called to just preach the gospel, and leave the convincing part to the Holy Spirit. However, communication is a two-way process that takes place when the receiver understands the message. For this to happen, the message has to be tailored to suit the receiver. Paul expressed this well in the passage cited in the first paragraph: 1 Corinthians 9:19–23.
Also, employing different strategies in spreading the word of God is both an Old and New Testament occurrence. Our Lord Jesus often used parables and short stories to illustrate principles and teachings of the kingdom to his followers and the public as necessitated by different situations. When we consider events such as Elijah and the prophets of Baal [1 Kings 18] or Elisha and Naaman, commander of the Syrian army [2 Kings 5], we see that the prophets of God in the Old Testament often used visuals to communicate different attributes of Jehovah.
As can be seen from Paul’s messaging, the message is not diminished by varying the delivery strategy. Instead, its uniqueness is emphasized. The gospel is one but can be presented in different ways to suit the understanding of the young and old or learned and unlearned, which complies with the last charge that Jesus gave his disciples: go and “make disciples of all men” [Matthew 28:19]. We as believers should not give up on spreading the gospel to diverse people but should rather find areas of common ground, shared interest, or culture to reach out to as many as possible.